Tourism, Culture and Soft Power

The Hospitality, Travel and Tourism sector is a major driver of growth and employment in India where it made up 6.7 % of the GDP in 2014. The footfall of tourists in India has been steadily increasing. As a host to 35 world heritage sites, 10 bio-geographical zones and 26 biotic provinces, India has significant potential to generate employment in the sector.

To capitalize on the job creation potential of the tourism sector and leverage soft power, five key areas for action are identified: visas, infrastructure, promotion and marketing, skill development, taxes and issues related to soft power.

Visas – The 2015 extension of the e-Tourist visa to 150 countries contributed to the growth of the tourism sector. There is a need to increase awareness about the e-Visa facility and solicit feedback to make it better.

Infrastructure – The steps required to improve tourist infrastructure include –

  • Develop beach destinations as tourist zones – Development of beaches should be based on master planning including best practices in engineering (drainage, sewage solid waste management) and sustainability.
  • Develop identified islands in Lakshadweep and Andamans.
  • Swachh Bharat – A clean India would ensure repeated visits and recommendations by the tourists.

Promotion and Marketing– There is a need to enhance digital marketing efforts and promote India abroad.

Skill Development – The interface of tourism and skill development could be improved with the following steps:

  • Creating a dedicated university for leadership in the tourism sector.
  • Supporting the existing universities to encourage teaching tourism related courses.
  • Upgrading the skills of the existing workers like taxi drivers, guides, restaurants etc.

Cultural tourism – Tourists could be attracted by marketing the rich culture and heritage of India. New forms of tourism such as ‘festival tourism’ could be exploited.

Tax reforms – Tourism should be placed in the lower tax bracket of the GST and taxes specific to the tourism sector should be streamlined.

Soft power– Soft power is the ability of a country to attract others through its culture,spiritual and political values and foreign policies rather than coercion or economic rewards. Given Indian democratic values, rich history, the diversity of languages, cultural practices and crafts we have many sources of soft power.While several aspects of India’s soft power such as democratic ideals, yoga, sufi music, literature, traditional textiles and Bollywood are commonly found across the world, India still has a long way to go to maximise the benefits of its cultural treasures. Following steps need to be taken:

  • Establish cultural centres across the globe.
  • Create a dedicated humanitarian relief agency.
  • Create a database of artisans and craft preservation.
  • Increase emphasis on global marketing and promotion.
  • Provide skills training related to cultural practices and vocations.
  • Enable access to markets for traditional handicraft producers.

Source: NITI AAYOG Three Year Action Agenda, 2017-18 to 2019-20.